Reflections on Australia

Australia is huge! Although Sydney and Melbourne were busy, there is so much space. The whole of Europe would fit into Australia, yet they have a population of 25 million (a third of the UK’s!)

Modern, clean, well kept, Australia feels invested in, even affluent.

The Aussies are direct, no nonsense – ‘don’t be a tosser’. Some of their abbreviated words are hilarious (and not worth the effort!)

I liked the laid back culture ‘no hurries, no worries’.

The Aussies are much more eco-friendly than we are – bins, notices about water being a precious and scarce resource everywhere, absence of litter.

Stunning scenery, landscapes so arid, stark and different from the UK.

Beautiful trees with amazing bark

Café culture – great coffee and cakes

My favourite hotel: Pan Pacific Perth and its delicious fruit bread

I loved the Great Ocean Road especially the Apostles and the Loch Ard Gorge, The Ghan, Uluru at sunrise and sunset.

The cities I liked most were Perth and Sydney. So easy to get around, clean and safe with free or low cost public transport in the central area!

My cuddle with a koala was a highlight.

I loved meeting up with people from home on my trip:

Thai meal with David, Toby and Jay in Adelaide

Meeting Punil & Fi in Melbourne

Seeing Annabelle again after 42 years!

At some stage I’d like to go back to see more of the East Coast, Tasmania and spend more time in Sydney… who knows when….

My adventure – the stats

3 countries visited – Singapore, New Zealand, Australia (4 if you count the stopover in Dubai on the way back)

Duration – 52 days away

Distance travelled – more than 35,000 miles (excluding separate excursions):

12,000 London/Singapore/Christchurch by air

2,500 in New Zealand by road

9,500 by air/road/train in Australia

11,300 Sydney/Dubai/London by air

Stayed in – 19 hotels, The Ghan and Milford Mariner

Trains – Taeri Gorge Railway in Dunedin, Kuranda Scenic Railway and The GhanBoats – Milford Mariner, TSS Earnslaw, ferry across Cook Strait, Bay of Islands, ferry from Russell to Paihia, ferry from Auckland to Devonport, ferry from Elizabeth Quay to Claisebrook Cove in Perth, Scenic cruise from Fremantle to Perth, ferry to & from Kangaroo Island, two boats in the Katherine GorgesCatamaran to the Great Barrier Reef & back, Sydney Harbour Cruise, ferry to Manly and back.

Planes – 13 flights (6 in Business Class) + helicopter flight at Franz JosefAerial walkways/gondolas – Queenstown, KurandaThanks to my fellow travellers for their company, friendship and fun.

To those who travelled the whole distance:

Anne, Maggie & Graham, Terry & Dave, Lesley & Dave, Maxine & Andy, Sue & Steve, Joyce & Georgina, Nic & Paul, Jennifer & Jeanie, Lynn & Richard (20 of us, including me)

To those who were with us in NZ only:

Donal, Sarah & Jane, Nikki & John, Donna & Chris, Maggie & Andy, Sondra & Patricia, Marian & Jo, Dingle & Lee, Bev & John, Dave & Sharon (19 people)

And those who joined us in Oz:

Jenny & Andrew, Jenny & Andy, Debbie & John, Bridget, Diane & Ash, Helen & Alan, Pauline & Rick, Ali & Kash, Nikki & Bernie, Chris & Steve, Kate & Mike (21 people)

Guides – Alan (NZ), Trevor (Hawke’s Bay Wine Tour), Wes (Cape Reinga Tour), James (Oz), Dick (Kangaroo Island), Russell (Barossa Valley Wine Tour), John (Kata Tjuta, Alice Springs, Uluru), Ash (West MacDonnell Ranges), Dane (Blue Mountains).

A fab trip!

Final day in Sydney – 12 April 2019

After sorting out my luggage ready for the journey home, I took the train to Circular Quay for a tour of the Opera House.

There are plaques in the pavement on Writer’s Walk beside the Opera House.

Two that stood out for me were Nevil Shute and Clive James.

I particularly liked the quote on this one.

Ruth Park in The Companion Guide to Sydney (1973)

“To walk into the Opera House is to walk inside a sculpture, or perhaps a seashell, maybe an intricate, half-translucent Nautilus. Morphology and the computers have composed a world of strange breathless shapes, vast, individual, quite unlike any other architecture.”

I had a coffee while I was waiting for the tour to start. About 10 minutes beforehand I realised I’d taken the ticket out of my purse when I was tidying up to come home!

Fortunately I found a very helpful lady and was able to get a reprint done pretty quickly.

The tour was very interesting.

We heard about the trials and tribulations of getting the Opera House built.

It took 5 times longer than forecast to build and cost over $100 million dollars instead of the initial estimate of $7.3 million!

The roof was particularly interesting. It has 10 sails or shells in 3 groups. Although the roof looks white, the tiles are actually off white and beige in colour. You can see from the photos that the tiles are all different shapes and sizes.

We were shown into two of the auditoriums, including one where rehearsals for the forthcoming production of the ballet Giselle were going on.

Before the tour started a photo was taken and used to make a tasteful souvenir booklet, complete with photos at all the key points of the tour. It was expensive but is a lovely memento of my visit to this iconic building.

After the tour ended, I went back to Circular Quay to take the ferry to Bangeroo to visit Darling Harbour.

It reminded me of Canary Wharf. There are skyscraper offices for City types, with lots of cafés and eateries on the wharf and a few small shops, as well as an Aquarium, Madame Tussaud’s and the Museum of the Sea. I had a snack and coffee, then took a ferry back to Milsons Point, walked up the hill and caught the train for the last stop to North Sydney.

The trains are an interesting two tier design with a mezzanine floor where you get on and off.

You can see the train pulling into the station after crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge.

I’ve really enjoyed Sydney, the openness and beauty of the Bay, the buzz, the fantastic transport system and of course the stunning Opera House.

When I got back to the hotel I had a chat and a cuppa with Ali, Kash, Jenny and Andy, who were also flying to Dubai. Then we travelled together to the airport in a people mover.

We checked in, I said farewell to my companions and went to the Emirates Lounge until the flight was called.

The flight left on time for the 14 hour journey to Dubai.

I watched The Greatest Showman and First Man, then tried to get some sleep. I was unsuccessful, despite the comforts of Business Class.

We arrived at 05:30 Dubai time, where the temperature was already 26C!

The airport is huge and it took a long while to walk from Area C to Area A where my flight to London left from.

Then I was able to relax in the very comfortable Emirates lounge until the final 7 hour flight to London at 09:30.

Everything went smoothly apart from not being able to sleep again. I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed!

And it was fantastic to be picked up and chauffeured home. The end to a wonderful holiday.

Where to next, I wonder….?

Spotted in Australia – the ‘loos’ edition

Apt! Spotted on Kangaroo Island

Spotted on the Barossa Valley wine tour Very full instructions for the ladies (aimed at our oriental friends again I think!) Spotted in Anglesea.Spelling was clearly a challenge at these facilities at Curtin Springs.

It was the first time I’d seen one of these. There was also a separate disabled loo… Spotted at Glen Helen Outback Resort.

Variations on a theme…. Spotted at Katharine Gorge

It’s been fun spotting all the different signs on my travels.

The Blue Mountains – 11 April 2019

My last full day in Australia…

The group went to the Blue Mountains the previous day. However the timings didn’t fit in with going to see West Side Story, so I went on a separate tour.

I was picked up at 06:45. The early start was a struggle for me after the late night the day before!

And I was not able to have breakfast as the restaurant did not open until 6:30. I grabbed a few pastries from there to keep me going until our first stop.

Dane was our driver and guide.

The other passengers were all from the USA – Kristin, Joe & their 3 children (from Guam) and Kara and Stephen (from Indianapolis).

When I saw the traffic on the freeway I understood why we’d set off so early.

Our first stop was Calmsley Hill City Farm, about 45 minutes from Sydney. It was in a rather bizarre location, right in the middle of a housing estate.

Tea and biscuits were available on arrival, which was much appreciated.

We were introduced to a very cute 6 month old kangaroo joey (in a dog bed inside a laundry basket!)The keeper then brought out a koala. Unlike Queensland, in New South Wales you can’t hold a koala, just touch one.

On to see the kangaroos. There was a red kangaroo (the largest type) in one enclosure.

Look at the joey in this mother’s pouch. Very cute.

I’m not sure what type of kangaroo this is, but it was much smaller than the red one.

There were a number of other kangaroos of this type mooching about in an open enclosure.

The wombats were next.

This poor boy is a rescue wombat. He had been kept as a pet and although a herbivore, had been fed dog food and bread, so was in a very poor condition when he was found.There were also parakeets and kookaburras and some small reptiles.

The Blue Mountains are so named because from Sydney, they look blue. They are clad in vast forests of eucalypts (commonly known as gum trees), which in the hot sun discharge a fine mist of eucalyptus oil from their leaves. The mist refracts light, which makes the haze look blue at a distance.

Our next stop was to view Wentworth Falls. There was a path with 220 steps down to a viewing point, Princes Rock Lookout.

Joe and Kristin had met a volunteer at a zoo they had visited who’d emigrated to Oz on the £10 POM scheme.

Dane explained that POM stood for Prisoner of Mother England, which I had not been aware of.

We drove through the town of Katoomba to view The 3 Sisters.More beautiful views

We had a very pleasant lunch stop at The Boiler House Restaurant of the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath.

You could see some of the Scenic World attractions across the valley. They consist of a walkway, a skyway, a cableway and a railway.Then on to more stunning views like Landslide Lookout, where there had been a huge rockfall, and Govett’s Leap.

The last stop was the Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens, where the autumnal colours were starting to come through. It would have been nice to spend more time here.

Then we headed back to Sydney. I was very tired at the end of the day.

I really enjoyed seeing a very small part of the huge area that the Blue Mountains National Parks cover.

In the evening the group met up for happy hour at the hotel to say farewell. Tomorrow we are travelling on to different destinations, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Dubai and Bali. I am the only person flying straight home.

I think some of my fellow travellers would have liked to be flying straight home too!

Spotted in Australia

Here I share a few things that caught my eye in Oz…

Doesn’t really feel very welcoming …. spotted in Fremantle.

This looks a good idea! Spotted in Fremantle.

Not a place for vegetarians. Spotted in Fremantle.

You’ve been warned! Spotted in Perth.

For dog lovers everywhere… Spotted in Perth.

Good advice on the pavement! Spotted in Glenelg.

Philosophical… Spotted in Hahndorf

Great name for a cheese shop. Spotted in Hahndorf.

Spotted on the Barossa Valley wine tour

Another one spotted on the Barossa Valley wine tour.

A blurry one spotted in Apollo Bay!

These were at all the stops on the Great Ocean Road. Note the warning is also in Chinese because of the high number of Chinese visitors. The place was overrun with them!

Fancy a drink? Try this….

You can guess where I spotted this one….

A friendly cuppa in Alice Springs

Warning! Spotted at Katherine

Clunk click! The Australian message is harder hitting. Spotted on the coach in Katherine.

This made me laugh. Spotted in Darwin

Wise words, spotted in Darwin

This is something everyone should do, spotted on Bondi Beach

Not seen one of these signs before! Spotted at Milsoms Point in Sydney

More good advice on the pavement, spotted at Manly.

I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of one of the best bus ads I spotted. It featured someone throwing rubbish from a car with the slogan ‘Don’t be a tosser!’

Sydney Day 2 – 10 April 2019

This morning I took the train from North Sydney to Milsons Point, then climbed the steps to walk across the Harbour Bridge.

The views were lovely.

I walked through The Rocks area, with its old buildings and alleyways, to Circular Quay.

There was an ibis here too!

I hadn’t had an icecream for a few days, and had passed by the Royal Copenhagen ice cream kiosk several times.

This time I had tropical passion fruit & devil’s chocolate. Yummy!

I took the ferry to Manly, which took about half an hour.

The Bay is huge and ferries are an important part of the public transport system here.

Manly is a vibrant place, full of cafés, eateries and ice cream places (no I didn’t have another one here!)

It has a beautiful beach with golden sand and I preferred it to the more famous Bondi Beach.

I enjoyed watching the world go by – and heard many English voices!

Then I went back to the hotel by ferry and over the Bridge by train for a siesta.

In the evening I went with Nikki & Bernie to see West Side Story at Mrs Macquarie’s Point. The following 3 photos were taken by Nikki and Bernie the previous day.

The performance was in an outdoor auditorium specially constructed for the show, with fantastic views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge behind.

We got there early, had some bubbly and food and enjoyed watching the sun go down.

By the time the show started it was cool but not uncomfortably so.

The performance was brilliant and there were even fireworks towards the end of the first part of the show.

It was a magical evening.